Xavier Marquis on clean living and hip-hop -- album release at Triple Rock tonight
By Allegra Oxborough
Xavier Davis sometimes Facebook-likes comments on Lupe Fiasco's page, a tactic he uses to turn strangers on to his own music. Performing under the name Xavier Marquis, Davis is forthcoming on how he markets himself.
"Probably 75 percent of my time is trying to get people listening, networking, sending e-mails. Once you've reached a certain level you can have people do that for you, but when you're grindin', you pretty much do all the leg work."
That's 75 percent of his time in total now that Davis lives with his dad. He burnt out on days processing documents for a law office, and nights producing albums for others. So he quit his job, milked unemployment benefits while they lasted, and moved home. "I'm givin' it my all right now, sacrificing being able to live on my own or have money all the time."
He rearranged his life to do it, but until recently, if you had a chance meeting with Davis, he would not have told you he raps. What he now values as networking, he used to avoid -- anticipating negative reactions from people who would roll their eyes at yet another young black rapper. From my side of the table though, it was hard to imagine Davis -- well-spoken and charming, and nibbling on a blueberry muffin -- eliciting that kind of judgement.
He rolled up for our interview helmeted and on a mountain bike, wearing a preppy-looking, lightweight plaid button-down. He keeps his hair and his goatee cleanly trimmed. And besides symptomatic sniffles from chronic allergies, at 9 a.m. he was bright. Most 28-year-olds who play late bar shows would be hungover at this hour (several days a week), but Davis doesn't really drink. "My problem was watching the way people acted when they were drunk. It made me scared like, I don't want to hurt people, I don't want to say the wrong thing because I'm drunk." He said he tried weed once, "Bad experience. After that I was like, I don't need that. I'm good with just getting high off life."
That might read like a cheesy catchphrase, but it sounds genuine from Davis. In this way, he embodies his music--his tracks are clean, radio-friendly, and tightly produced, but some people, he said, have a hard time relating to that. "I don't think my music is as sad-sounding or as depressing-sounding as other music is. People take me as being just a straight pop artist, not having any passion or substance, I guess."
Davis encourages listeners to hear beyond the catchy hooks, into the ups and downs of his experiences. But he isn't interested in shifting his approach to sound more like some local heroes. "My music is different from what you'd normally expect for Minnesota, but there's a lot of people here, and a lot of music fans. I just make what I love and I'm not willing to sacrifice that for anybody, because there's so many ears in the world. There's always gonna be somebody who likes your music."
Davis has not had to look far for fans. At 16 he recorded his first rap songs in his cousin's studio for a compilation his uncle produced. And, although he laughed and near-blushed when I brought it up, his family collaborations started even earlier.
"Me and Dom did a talent show in...what grade was that, fifth?" That's Dom Davis of Dearling Physique, another cousin with whom Xavier just released a music video. "We did a song called 'Candy Rain' by Soul for Real." He grinned, "We performed that in the talent show and everyone went crazy."
After about an hour talking, Davis started rapidly, sporadically drumming his fingers on the table. It was evident then why school was hard for him. "I'm pretty ADHD. I would just daydream throughout the whole day." Sophomore year he attempted home school, which, he hesitated to say, he "lost track of." And, though he hasn't had a hard time finding jobs without a GED or diploma, the difficulties he faced in school are the same in the work place, "The issue is just being able to keep my attention."
But Davis is lucky. He found something he excels at, and his family is on board. Which is good, because he's not going back to a day job any time soon. "Music has my attention all the time. I found that one thing that keeps me focused."
Xavier Marquis headlines the Urges From Elsewhere "Bar Rules" album release (Friday 5/25 at the Triple Rock Social Club) with Peter and the Twins and Fall for Glory. 18+, 9 p.m., $8.
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